Interim At-Large Councilmember Sekou Biddle just gave the 10 people running against him in the April special election an awkward flip-flop as an early Presidents’ Day gift.
Biddle told Tim Craig at the Post andFreeman Klopott at the Examiner earlier this week that he wants the council to focus on making cuts to the budget to bridge a possible $600 million budget gap. But if higher taxes were necessary, he’d support raising them for people making $125,000 because he felt councilmembers should be included in any tax increases.
This hardly seems like the stuff of controversy—who wouldn’t agree that the District’s budget needs to be scrubbed before people start talking about tax increases. And taking the position that any tax increase ought to include councilmembers has a nice populist touch.
But Biddle is now balking, through a statement released from his office today:
“I do not support a tax hike on businesses, individuals or households making above $125,000. The District is facing a major fiscal shortfall but solving that problem doesn’t mean we need to be shortsighted. We can’t start the process of addressing our budget challenges by putting taxes on the table up front.
If we operate from the premise that savings and reduction in waste will allow us to balance the budget then we are likely to find the will to make the changes. If we start with the idea that we can tax residents for the revenue to operate the government irresponsibly, then we will. As responsible stewards of the city’s finances, the Council has an obligation to provide the kind of oversight that delivers excellent government services without spending beyond the District’s current revenue base.
Being responsible stewards means reducing waste, creating efficiencies and balancing the budget without raising taxes. The most recent audit of the District’s budget revealed that there are numerous examples of waste in the government. The Council should share the burden of fixing this problem by considering cuts to its own budget.
If we make the right decisions today, we will be in a much stronger position to make important investments when the economy rebounds and we finally return to the days of budget surpluses.”
LL thought that first line in the third graf was pretty clear that Biddle was making a “read my lips, no new taxes” type statement, but others read it different. So LL reached out to Biddle’s spokesman, James Jones, for clarification.
Says Jones, via email: “The councilmember feels spending cuts and eliminating waste are the best ways to address the budget deficit. Tax increases should be considered a last resort and do not appear necessary at this time.”